Dating is complicated and confusing enough, but when you add kids to the mix, a relationship has even more complexities and challenges. If you are at the cusp of entering into a new relationship with a person who has kids from a previous relationship, you no doubt have some apprehensions and concerns. This is, after all, a type of relationship that is generally much different than other relationships you may have been involved in previously, and so it is natural that you would have some complex emotions and feelings about it.
Dating someone who has kids has some unique dimensions and nuances that you will want to be aware of. While this new relationship may be far more challenging than others you have been in, it can also be far more fulfilling and rewarding than others, too. There are some things you will want to know as you begin this new relationship. Here are some tips that can help you navigate through these uncharted waters with success:
A Look At Your New Partner. Most parents are highly protective of their kids. This is a natural instinct, plain and simple. Many single parents are even more protective than other parents because they have seen their kids ride through the emotional wave of watching their parents separate. They may have seen their kids grow attached to other people they have dated in the past, too, and when these past relationships have failed, their kids have experienced more emotional turmoil.
Because it is a natural instinct for a parent to protect his or her kids, your partner will likely want to keep your relationship out of the limelight, so to speak, until he or she feels that the relationship has reached a more serious level. The last thing your partner wants is to have the kids grow attached to you, and then have to deal with the heartache those kids will face if you two break up.
From your standpoint, it can be understandably somewhat disheartening to have your partner keep your relationship a secret from the kids, but you should know that this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with that natural instinct of a parent to protect his or her children.
A Look At the Kids. Even when your relationship reaches the threshold of being what both of you would term “serious,” the kids' emotional state needs to be considered as well. These are kids who have been through a lot of emotional turmoil in their very short lives, and while you and your partner may be gung-ho about your relationship, the aspect of when the kids are ready to be approached with the new relationship must be considered.
When a parent approaches kids who have watched their parents split up with the announcement of a new relationship, the separation of his parents becomes far more permanent and real. Eventually children will have come to the realization that their parents will not be getting back together, but oftentimes giving children just a little extra time to come to grips with the break-up will put them in a better emotional state for accepting your new relationship.
You should give your partner the ultimate freedom and flexibility to make the choice of when and how to announce the relationship. You should avoid the temptation or impulse to put pressure on your new partner about making this announcement.
Getting to Know the Kids. If your new relationship progresses to a very serious level, there may be a time when you may start to take on a more parental role with your partner's kids. Who knows? Maybe one day you will legally become a parent to them. Initially, though, let your partner do the parenting, and you can simply play the role of a guest. Kids can really fight back hard if they feel that you are trying to take the place of their other parent, and so you should avoid giving any indication of that happening until they have gotten to know you much better.
So initially you will want to stick to being a guest at family dinners, enjoying fun outings with the kids and your new partner, and just simply letting them get to know who you are as a person. It may be OK to hold hands and even give your partner a quick kiss or hug in front of them, but even with this light level of PDA, you will want to watch the body language of the kids and let their reactions dictate your actions for awhile. Your main goal is to get them comfortable with you and your new relationship with their mom or dad, and not to force the issue or make them feel challenged or threatened.
Over time, you may find that you are invited to special family events like family birthday dinners, partaking in family traditions, and even spending time with them on holidays. Let the kids and your partner decide when it is right to invite you into these more personal times in their family life together. You should not expect to be included in these special family moments right away, but over time you will find that the kids and your new partner will invite you to share these times with them. When they do, keep in mind that these are existing family traditions. You may at some point be able to put your own mark on these traditions, but at first you will want to ease into their traditions that have already been established.
As you can see, there is quite a bit to know and understand about dating someone who has kids from a previous relationship. You should know that, while the relationship sounds complicated and generally is more complicated than dating someone without kids, many people just like you enjoy successful and very fulfilling relationships with a partner who have kids. In fact, many people find that dating someone with kids, while challenging, is far more rewarding and emotionally satisfying than they ever expected. Take time to follow these tips, and you will be on the right path towards embarking on a new and wonderful journey with your new partner.